Richard D. Moran

  • Professor Emeritus of Sociology
Richard D. Moran

Richard Moran is a criminologist and a leading expert on the insanity defense, capital punishment, and the history of the electric chair. His book The Executioner's Current (Knopf, 2002) is the story of how the electric chair developed out of an effort by one nineteenth-century electric company to discredit the other.

"Moran is a wonderful storyteller," said Alan Dershowitz. "The history of the electric chair— with rich AC/DC electric moguls trying to destroy each other's business— makes a fascinating tale of greed, opportunism, and hypocrisy. Thomas Edison's attempt to make George Westinghouse into America's Dr. Guillotine is worth reading by everyone who cares about business ethics, the death penalty, and justice."

The author of numerous articles and reviews, Moran has also served as a commentator for National Public Radio's Morning Edition and written op-eds for the Boston Globe, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, and Newsweek.

In 1981, Moran published Knowing Right from Wrong: The Insanity Defense of Daniel McNaughtan, which was the first detailed study of the nineteenth-century case responsible for the modern insanity defense. He has testified before the Massachusetts Legislature and at Congressional Judiciary Committee hearings.

Moran teaches Criminal Law and Justice, the Sociology of Medicine, and Social Problems.

Areas of Expertise

Criminology (the insanity defense, capital punishment, and the history of the electric chair); deviance; medical sociology


  • Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
  • M.A., Northeastern University
  • B.A., University of Massachusetts